Sound sensitivity conditions affect a large number of people and can have a significant impact on their daily lives. These conditions can be particularly challenging for those with hearing loss, as they can be difficult to diagnose and often require specialized treatment.
Misophonia is one of the most common sound sensitivity conditions and is characterized by an extreme emotional reaction to certain sounds.
In this article, I’ll take a closer look at misophonia and other sound sensitivity conditions that can affect people with hearing loss, including hyperacusis.
Overview of Misophonia
Misophonia is a disorder that causes extreme emotional distress and physiological reactions in response to certain sounds. People with misophonia may experience physiological reactions such as increased heart rate, agitation, sweating, and even a feeling of panic in response to certain sounds.
These reactions are usually triggered by everyday noises like chewing, slurping, tapping, or sniffling. However, other sounds, such as footsteps, laughter, or specific voices, can also trigger the reactions.
“In my opinion, misophonia is a learned conditioned response,” said our very own audiologist Natan Bauman in a piece he contributed to the Washington Post. “If we associate a given event—in this case, all those trigger sounds—with something that is perceived to be a danger, then we need to act on it accordingly.”
How Does Misophonia Develop?
Misophonia is believed to be caused by an abnormality in the brain’s ability to process sound.
This abnormality causes the brain to associate certain sounds with negative emotions, resulting in a conditioned response of extreme emotional distress.
The disorder can be extremely distressing and can interfere with daily life.
People with misophonia often feel compelled to leave a room if they hear their trigger sound and may avoid activities or places where the sound is likely to occur.
They may also engage in behaviors such as covering their ears, humming, or using earplugs in an attempt to block out the sound.
How Hyperacusis Differs from Misophonia
Hyperacusis is an increased sensitivity to sound, often causing a reaction to everyday sounds. People with hyperacusis may experience pain, fear, or distress when exposed to simple sounds, such as the sound of a passing car, a vacuum cleaner, or even their own voice.
Hyperacusis differs from misophonia in that misophonia refers to a strong dislike or even hatred of certain sounds.
For example, someone with misophonia may have a strong adverse reaction to the sound of someone chewing or tapping their pen.
People with hyperacusis can be susceptible to a wide range of perceived loud or unpleasant sounds, while specific sounds trigger people with misophonia.
Treatment Options for Sound Sensitivity Conditions
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy—CBT is a form of psychotherapy that helps people learn to identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that can exacerbate misophonia and hyperacusis. Through CBT, individuals can learn coping strategies, including relaxation techniques and stress management, to better manage their symptoms.
Hearing Aids—Hearing aids help amplify sound, reducing the impact of triggers. For individuals with misophonia and hyperacusis, hearing aids can help lessen sound intensity and provide a sense of relief.
Medication—Medication is often prescribed to help reduce anxiety and stress associated with misophonia and hyperacusis. Common medications include antidepressants, antianxiety drugs, and beta-blockers.
Music Therapy—This method uses sound to help individuals manage their symptoms. Individuals can learn to associate certain sounds with positive emotions and sensations through music therapy.
Lifestyle Changes—Making lifestyle changes, such as cutting out caffeine, avoiding stress, and getting enough sleep, can help to reduce the intensity of misophonic reactions and hyperacusis.
Other Types of Sound Sensitivity
Misophonia and hyperacusis are the most common sound sensitivity conditions, but they are not the only ones we see and know how to treat.
Tonic Tensor Tympani Syndrome
Someone with TTTS experiences chronic ear pain, tinnitus, and dizziness due to a decreased contraction threshold of the tensor tympani muscle in their middle ear. This leads to involuntary spasms caused by the anticipation of a perceived harmful sound. Many people with TTTS also report oversensitivity to sound.
AS is a condition associated with TTTS (telephone transmitter-telephone receiver system ), which results in pain and discomfort when exposed to certain sounds, such as feedback oscillation, fax tones, or signaling tones. Unfortunately, even after the sound has stopped, the symptoms of shock can continue, including nausea, anxiety, depression, headaches, and fatigue.
The First Steps to Relief
Misophonia can be a frustrating and challenging condition to manage, but it’s not impossible. Our sound sensitivity treatments page offers insights and potential solutions for misophonia and other sound sensitivity disorders like hyperacusis, TTTS, and AS.
Don’t let sound sensitivity ruin your relationships or quality of life. Take action today and explore our resources to find relief.